Saturday, March 3, 2012

Soul Searching

This is kind of a weird post to be putting up on a blog about getting a PhD. I've actually been second guessing whether or not a PhD would actually be a good idea for me or not. This might seem like it's coming out of nowhere, but this has been nagging at me for a while now. In the past I've jokingly made long lists of all the things I could feasibly do if this doesn't work out. Some of the things on that list are silly, like being a dancer at a club (haha); still, other things I could see myself doing. More importantly, I can see myself being happy and less stressed out doing them.

I can do research. I understand research. I like learning new things and I actually enjoy teaching people quite a bit. I've talked in the past about how I can't imagine myself doing anything other than being a college professor. Lately, though, I've been questioning 1) whether I'll get the satisfaction out of it that I thought I would and 2) if I have the personality to be constantly vying for grants and publications and status. If I'm stressed and worried now, that's not going to change if I graduate. If I become a professor I will be doing that for the rest of my working life. I want to be more laid back than that.

I sometimes think I'd be happier with a regular job where I have time to pursue other interests. Where my entire existence doesn't revolve around one thing. Some of the people I go to school with just seem like they're always "on", always talking about work. I have other interests besides my research and I'm really frustrated that I feel like I have no time for them. And I don't know how to tell people that I don't want to talk shop all the time.

Maybe I want a career where I feel like I'm making a tangible difference? I can sort of relate what I'm doing now to real world problems... but it's so far removed that I'll never be able to pin point a single event or person and say "Yes, I helped!" Other jobs are much more directly in contact with the real world, like doctors, nurses, paramedics etc. Stopping someone from bleeding to death... yeah, that is pretty direct. I'm not even sure at this point that I want to be an academic. Maybe a government or industry job would be more fitting for me, but there aren't too many jobs like that for paleontologists. I just know that right now I feel like I don't want to be at a research university forever.

I have two degrees, I've been in school for almost 9 years, not counting the one I took off. I hated what I was doing during that year off, it was a crappy job. But a lot has changed since then and I have more experience doing other things. Surely I could find something that makes me happier than what I was doing then? Maybe I need to do something completely different. I know plenty of people who went to college for one thing and then ended up doing something else that was unrelated.

I'm not making any decisions right now, but I am re-evaluating what I'm doing with my life. I'm going to stick it out for the rest of the semester, think about my options, and then just take it as it comes. My philosophy going in to graduate school was that if it doesn't work out it isn't the end of the world. And I don't want to waste my time being unhappy. I believe there are very few instances where we can't change our trajectory. I'm freaking out now and feeling really badly about all this, but I have to keep this all in perspective.

1 comment:

  1. It's definitely hard to be questioning what you want to do now and with your life, especially since it involved a pretty big move there to Albuquerque. Even if you ultimately decide to stick with your PhD and becoming a professor, it will have been healthy to really think through the value of what you are doing and your quality of life.

    I personally think that it's a pretty demanding career field and that summers off (which really doesn't happen) doesn't make up for the time sink that it can be during the school year. One of the things that was most difficult for me in the Navy was how my time was never really my own - there was no discrete delineation between "on time" and "off time". It was all sort of blurry which was difficult combined with a feeling of total lack of control.

    Anyway, it's clear that this has been pressing on your mind for awhile - I hope that you are able to get the sort of support that you need from those closest to you. Hang in there!